By Cliff Rold
When we don’t arrive at the desired destination as soon as possible, sometimes we miss the road.
Most of boxing fandom would probably say the fight they wanted to see the most at heavyweight this year was a showdown between WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO titlist Anthony Joshua (21-0, 20 KO) and WBC titlist Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KO). It made perfect competitive sense. In March, both men went to scratch and came away victorious. Wilder picked up a career validating stoppage of undefeated Luis Ortiz while Joshua added a third belt with his first decision win over undefeated Joseph Parker.
The fight looked like the richest clash of big men in a generation.
Of course, we’re all going to wait.
Wilder is aimed at a showdown with recently returned lineal king Tyson Fury (27-0, 19 KO) in December, though there are still i’s and t’s being settled there. Joshua returns this Saturday as the centerpiece of the new DAZN app, facing longtime top ten heavyweight Alexander Povetkin (34-1, 20 KO).
If we put aside the Joshua-Wilder clash we aren’t getting yet, both of these are intriguing fights. Wilder-Fury is a fascinating fight that began to build well before a Wilder-Joshua fight was a thing, aborted by the retirement and personal problems of Fury. If Fury wins, he adds teeth to his claim to history’s title. Wilder has a chance to walk away declaring himself the real champ, the man who beat the man, on the road to bigger things.
Povetkin’s only loss came to Wladimir Klitschko in 2013 and, at age 39, he is in last chance territory. He’s won eight in a row, like Joshua was a super heavyweight Gold Medalist at the Olympics, and carries a cloud over his head he’d like to erase. Povetkin was supposed to challenge Wilder not long ago but a PED test scuttled their fight and kept Povetkin out of the ring for much of 2016. On paper, he may be the second most accomplished opponent of Joshua’s career.
This isn’t a no-brainer, though Joshua should be favored.
There is nothing wrong with being disappointed in not getting the fight the most people seemed to want but, for at least the happening of these two fights, let’s not overlook that they aren’t the worst of consolation prizes.
Let’s also not forget that sometimes the roads to the fights that don’t happen when we most want them can provide memories that fill out an era.
In 1990, all signs pointed to a showdown between champion Mike Tyson and number one contender Evander Holyfield. It was going to be the biggest heavyweight fight of its time. Then Buster Douglas happened and we ultimately didn’t see Tyson-Holyfield until 1996.
We’ll never know what would have happened if Douglas hadn’t upset Tyson, or if Holyfield-Tyson hadn’t been cancelled just weeks out in 1991. Here’s what did happen.
Between Tyson-Douglas and Holyfield-Tyson I, we saw Tyson fight Razor Ruddock in two memorable battles. We saw Holyfield defeat Douglas, defend against George Foreman, and barely survive Bert Cooper in a classic few saw coming.
We got to see Lennox Lewis establish himself against Ruddock and be upset by Oliver McCall. Cooper parlayed his defeat into greater notoriety and shared the ring with Michael Moorer in one of the great heavyweight brawls of all time. Holyfield found a rival in Riddick Bowe, producing three memorable battles, and suffered a surprising upset to Moorer, leading the more surprising knockout of Moorer by Foreman.
If Tyson and Holyfield had clashed in 1990, if Team Tyson had skipped Douglas altogether, maybe much of the era still plays out the same. Maybe it doesn’t. How many of us would trade so many of the great memories of that era for that single fight in that single year?
We can ask some of the same about a Ray Leonard-Marvin Hagler clash around 1982. What if, instead of Leonard announcing a retirement due to eye injury he had instead challenged Hagler? Would the dramatic comeback of Roberto Duran in 1983, culminating with a memorable if losing stand against Hagler, still have unfolded the same? Would we have been denied the thrill of Hagler-Hearns?
Maybe it all would have been even better, with a series of Leonard-Hagler fights and earlier rematches with Hearns and Duran. Would anyone really want to trade what we did get for what we can never know?
In the end, there are the fights we want, the fights we get, and the big picture that only comes together when an era is at its end. This era is only getting started. If we spend too much time on the disappointment of the now, we might not appreciate what we actually get until its all over.
While it was good to see Roman Gonzalez back in a boxing ring, and back in the winner’s circle, there were some red flags in his knockout of Moises Fuentes. His face looked puffy before the fight and swelled quickly with contact. He appeared slow in the early going as well. He has to feel like red meat for some of the younger or fresher talents in the class and his comeback probably needs another fight before he really risks anything. If he has to go for a tough out, the best match for him right now might be the aging Donnie Nietes. That might be the best match in the class for Nietes as well in a deep pool…The new DC Universe app is promising but we’ll see when new content is loaded…The Marvel app sounds really exciting as well in terms of original programming….How long until app collections cost more than cable? It could add up quickly…How many fights will really come off in December? Someone is going to have to move…Yes, this scribe would watch a Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao rematch and probably look forward to it.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]